Anarchists who turned to the Bolsheviks - Nick Heath

In these biographies, Nick Heath charts the trajectory of several leading anarchists in the Russian revolution into the service of the Bolshevik counterrevolution.

Akashev, Konstantin Vasielievitch, 1888-1931

A short biography of the anarchist who defected to the Bolsheviks and became the first commander of the Soviet air force and was later executed.

1. From anarchist to first commander of the Soviet Air Force

“It was necessary to organize an aviation service. I called up an engineer-pilot, Akashev, who, though an anarchist by conviction, was working with us. Akashev showed his initiative and quickly rounded up an air squadron. At last we got with its help a full picture of the enemy front; the command of the Fifth army had come out of the dark. The fliers made daily air raids on Kazan, and a frenzy of alarm took hold of the city.” Trotsky, My Life.

Konstantin Akashev was born on the 22nd October 1888, at Mahalino Lyutinskogo in the Vitebsk region of Belorussia, the son of a peasant family. He progressed through the education system and graduated in Dvinsk. In 1906 he was active with the Social Revolutionaries, involving himself in education work among the peasantry in Lyutinskogo. He moved to St Petersburg because of the threat of arrest. Here he became an anarchist communist at the end of the year. During 1907 he was extremely active leading anarchist agitation and propaganda in the city and in Kiev. He was involved in the illegal distribution of the anarchist communist paper Buntar(Rebel). He was arrested on the 14th April in Kiev, carrying the false papers of one Alexander Petrovich Milyaev, and was accused of being involved in a failed assassination attempt on Prime Minister Stolypin. He was kept in Lukyanovskaya prison until late July 1907 then transferred to St Petersburg where he had limited liberty under police surveillance. In 1908 he was acquitted for lack of evidence but by the end of May was exiled to Turukhansk in Siberia for 4 years under police supervision.

He was described in police reports as having chestnut hair, blue eyes, a long straight nose, a small red moustache, thin and often wearing light grey lounge suits and a light grey felt hat.

In March 1909 he escaped and fled to Algeria and then lived in Berlin and Munich before moving to Paris. In August 1910 he moved to Italy and enrolled in December in the Caproni flight school in Milan, receiving his pilot’s diploma in June 1911. Between 1912-14 he was at the Higher Institute of Aviation and Mechanics in Paris from which he received an engineering diploma. A report from an agent in France to the Tsarist secret services made the claim that he was involved in preparations by anarchists to construct five warplanes out of light steel. These were to be used to mount an attack on the Tsar on his royal yacht Standard in the Gulf of Finland! Whether this was true or an attempt by the agent at self-justification remains to be seen, bearing in mind that no such attack was attempted. He was one of the “anarcho-patriots” who like Kropotkin took the side of the Allies in the First World War. He volunteered for the French air force and was enrolled in a military aviation school, subsequently participating in some of the battles on the front. In May 1915 he returned to Russia, where he was arrested.

He filed a petition for the dismissal of his case in June of that year, and tried to enter the Russian aviation industry and the air force. His reliability was questioned. He then worked as a test pilot in St Petersburg up to early 1916 and then served as a technical director in the aviation industry. He appears to have maintained his connection with the anarchist communists, serving as secretary of the Petrograd Anarchist Communist Club which was established secretly in 1916-17.

He participated in the February Revolution and was active in the anarchist agitation during the July Days and then in the October Revolution. Anarchist and Bolshevik objectives coincided over the overthrow of the Kerensky regime and Akashev served on the committee that coordinated the uprising. Disguised as an officer he brought two artillery batteries out of the Winter Palace, a crucial event in the October Revolution. The following month he became a Commissar of the Department of the Military Air Fleet. In 1918 was elected as the Chair of the all union college of air fleet management. In December of the same year was appointed as a chief commander of aviation and the air fleet of the southern front. In August-September 1919 he commanded an air group formed to combat the White cavalry of General Mamontov. He personally flew the airplane Ilya Muromets, bombing the enemy cavalry. From March, 1920-February, 1921, Akashev again served primarily as the commander of the Soviet air forces.In 1922 he took part in international aviation conferences in London and Rome. The last years of his life were spent in management roles on aviation production plants of Leningrad and Moscow. It appears that he never officially joined the Communist Party.

He was arrested in 1929 accused of counter-revolutionary activity but was released after a hunger strike. He was again arrested at the beginning of March 1930. On March 3 Akashev was "repressed", accused of spying and arrested without any grounds—and either died after a severe beating by the NKVD or was executed on September 4, 1931. He was rehabilitated posthumously.


Geytsman, Ilya, 1874/1879-1938

A short biography of former anarchist Ilya Geytsman who defected to the Bolsheviks, and then was later executed in Stalin's purges.

2. Chaim The Londoner – from anarchist to Lenin sycophant

GEYTSMAN Ilya M. (Itsko-Isaac Moyshev Fayvishev) aka P. Geytsman, Haim London or Chaim the Londoner 1874/1879-1938

Ilya Geytsman was born in either 1874 or 1879 according to different resources, in Ponevezh ( Panevys)a district capital and fifth largest city in Lithuania, which was then a Jewish shtetl. He was the son of a teacher. During 1905-1907 he was an anarchist-communist of the Kropotkinian current and was opposed to the tactic of “motiveless terror” used by some anarchist communists. He was the prime mover of an anarchist conference organised in 1905 in north west Russia which agitated for the dropping of the tactic.

In Spring 1917 anarchists organised a conference in Irkutsk with Geytsman and Nestor Kalandarishvili representing the majority anarchist communists and Buyskih and others representing an anarchosyndicalist minority to create an anarchist federation in Siberia, although there were always tensions within the new organisation between the two currents.

He became The People’s Commissioner for Foreign Affairs of the first board of the workers and soldiers deputies of Siberia created on 5th March 1917. At his own expense he published The Manifesto of the Anarchist Communists in Irkutsk in 1917 as well as a following pamphlet Anarchy: its aims and tasks in connection with the Revolution and War.

He was at the head of a group of anarchists which included among others Buyskih and Baykovsky aka Valentinov and which issued a statement that they had decided to join the Communist Party on 9th September 1923. He was to go on record to sycophantically sing the praises of Lenin, saying that immortality was given to some after death, but with Lenin it was within his own lifetime. This statement was much used by the regime in its campaign to win over anarchists to the regime. He withdrew, or was forced to withdraw, from the Party in 1929.

In 1933-1936 he was the Director of the Central Military Archives (TSAU) in Moscow. He was arrested during the Stalin purges and executed by the NKVD on the 16th August 1938 in the killing fields of Butovo, 27 kilometres south of Moscow, where his body was buried, alongside 25,000 other victims. In 1957 he was rehabilitated under the Kruschev regime.

(His sister in law , Judith Goodman,(1881-1943) also an active anarchist, had to flee to London in 1905 and then moved on to the USA. She kept up a correspondence with Geytsman in exile, which has been preserved in archives of the Labadie Collection in the USA)

Kalandarishvili, Nestor Alexandrevitch, 1876-1922

Nick Heath's short biography of Nestor Kalandarishvili, a high profile anarchist who defected to the Bolsheviks.

3. The other Nestor
One of the odd circumstances of history is that during the Russian Revolution and Civil War, there existed two brilliant anarchist guerilla leaders both with the first name of Nestor. Whilst Makhno fought in the Ukraine, the other fought at the other end of the Soviet Union. Whilst Makhno acquired the name of Batko (Little Father) the other acquired that of Grandpa. Both had private meetings with Lenin and both were awarded the elite military medal the Order of the Red Banner by the Bolshevik government. Both Nestors fought under black banners, both inscribed with the identical motto “Anarchy is the Mother of Order”. Both the guerilla groups of the two Nestors used similar tactics, retreating where necessary, dispersing, and then regrouping and attacking from the rear. Whilst Makhno was buried in Paris near the memorial to the martyrs of the Paris Commune, the other Nestor was buried at the foot of a mountain named after them.

There the similarities end. Whilst Makhno was not taken in by the smooth talk of Lenin and maintained his anarchist positions, the other Nestor was unable to resist. Whilst Makhno was short and smooth shaven, the other Nestor was tall and strapping with a full flowing beard.

Nestor Kalandarishvili was born in the village of Shemokmedi in Ozurgetskogo county of Kutaisi Province of Georgia, into a family of impoverished nobility on 26th June 1876. Besides him, the family has another son and three daughters.

At the age of eight Nestor went to the village school. At the insistence of the teacher there who saw a boy of outstanding ability and attraction to education, Nestor was sent to study in Kutaisi Gymnasium, thanks to the financial help of wealthier relatives. After High School he entered the Tbilisi (Tiflis) seminary, from where in 1895 he was called up for two years Army service in the Tbilisi Vladimir Infantry Regiment. Demobilized, Nestor continued his studies, and in 1900 came under the influence of Social Revolutionaries (SRs) who had studied at the seminary.

In 1903 he was expelled from the seminary for revolutionary activity, which included agitational work among soldiers. In the same year, Nestor finished illegal military training in an SR combat group. After leaving Tbilisi, he went to Batumi, where he taught for some time to teach, and then worked in a factory owned by the Rothschilds. By 1904 he was disillusioned with the SRs and joined the Georgian Socialist-Federalists, a nationalist socialist organisation. As a member of its combat brigades, he participated in the Batumi uprising in November 1905, and after its defeat hid in Kutaisi. Here he worked as an actor in the local theatre. By now Nestor had developed anarchist communist positions and was one of thirty Georgians who set up an Anarchist Federation. In his memoirs he talks about beginning the underground revolutionary life with its “charm”, hiding, climbing through pipes, and jumping over fences!

He now was involved in guerilla attacks on gendarmes, landlords and the punitive detachments sent out throughout Russia after the initial uprisings of 1905 and took part in expropriations. He was arrested on several occasions in all the major cities of Georgia, Batumi, Kutaisi, Sukhumi and Tbilisi, but was always released for lack of evidence. In late 1907 after the bloody crushing of the Gulgule (Guriyskom) peasant uprising he was arrested and exiled to eastern Siberia, leaving behind a wife and two daughters.

In eastern Siberia he made contacts with exiled Georgian and Ossetian anarchists working in the mines around Cheremhovo village. He worked as a photographer and actor. He was arrested three times in this period, including for suspected involvement in an assassination attempt on Governor-General Sinelnikov. Each time he was freed for lack of evidence.

He participated in the February Revolution. He and sixty other anarchists formed a squad and took part in the crushing of the Junker uprising against the revolution in Siberia on December 17th. The following April the 1st Irkutsk cavalry division (anarchist-communists) under his command arrived at the front to fight against the White forces of Ataman Semenov. Kalandarishvili was thus involved in the development of a strong anarchist fighting force, which was reinforced by people fleeing from the Whites and the forces of foreign intervention. This group grew to the size of an entire division. Three years of fighting against the White forces of Semenov, Kappel and Ungern took place with Kalandarishvili moving across the whole of eastern Siberia. He developed a reputation as one of the most famous guerilla commanders, with the nickname of Grandpa as a result of his huge flowing beard. From February to July 1918 he commanded the troops of the central board of the Workers and Soldiers Deputies (TsentroSibiri). In October 1918 he suffered a defeat and retreated over the border to Mongolia with 800 troops and 12 machine guns.

In March 1919 the Communist Party leadership in Irkutsk approached him to talk about cooperation. This was initially rejected by Kalandarishvili. The Communist leadership then promised him funds, supplies, arms and soldiers and this lured him into cooperation. That spring and summer the forces of Kalandarishvili engaging in guerilla attacks to the west of Irkutsk and the forces of the White Admiral Kolchak put the sum of 40,000 rubles on his head. In September 1919, the squad moved to the north of Irkutsk and began to sweep the Whites out of the area. Thousands of anarchist were involved in guerilla groups throughout Siberia in groups like those of Kalandarishvili, fighting the forces of the various White leaders and the Japanese interventionists. By early January 1920 Soviet power had been established in Irkutsk, due in many ways to the efforts of the Kalandarishvili division. He continued to hold important military positions and in 1921 he was invited by Lenin to attend a private meeting with him in Moscow.

After the meeting Kalandarishvili declared that he was no longer an anarchist communist and was now a Bolshevik communist and proceeded to join the Party. Lenin gave him supreme command of the armed forces in the Far East and he assumed the right to appoint and dismiss guerilla commanders. He was in charge of Korean revolutionary forces and he began a clamp down on the independence of the anarchist guerilla bands by disarming and dissolving the Sakhalin Regiment, made up of Korean anarchists, because they had refused to recognize their new commanding officer appointed by the Bolsheviks, a former White officer in Ataman Semenov’s army!! Kalandarishvili became increasingly autocratic and authoritarian.

In January 1922 with a group of 300 troops he began operations against a White gang in Yakutia. He and his GHQ numbering fifty were ambushed and killed at 33 km from Yakutsk on March 6th. He was buried on 2nd April 1922 in Yakutsk and on September 17th of the same year was reburied in Irkutsk at the foot of mount Kommunarov.
Various theories exist on the death of Kalandarishvili, with the straightforward one that he died as a result of White action, whilst other historians implicate local Bolsheviks, with or without the involvement of the Bolshevik triumvirate of Yakutia, who were concerned about his political reliability or envious that their positions were being threatened by him. The Bolsheviks on a central level had conducted a considerable charm offensive to win him with praise, the supply of arms and money as well as the awarding of the Order of the Red Banner medal and this proved to be stronger than Kalandarishvili’s political integrity. In death, as with Zhelezhniakov and others, he was integrated into the Bolshevik state iconography with collective farms and streets named after him throughout the Soviet Union.
Nick Heath

Image of Kalandarishvili thanks to
Sources include
Anarchist Georgia in the early twentieth century
Nestor Kalandarishvili